Talking with a Yankee about socialism is like talking with a catholic priest
about sex. They both don't practice it, nevertheless they feel the right to
pontificate about it.
(Marco, 28 May 2001)
The question is: WHAT Socialism? It is obvious from Rog's words that he feels
socialism antithetic to free enterprise, private property, representative
democracy and sane selfishness (if any). Well, it isn't. Of course, he has in
his mind the Soviet Union (or, better, what the Americans know about Soviet
Union), and he is right. It has been a disaster; I don't need neither Pirsig nor
Roger to see it.
But it is like to say that Islam is immoral looking at the Talebans. Or that
Christianity is immoral because they used to burn the witches. The Soviet
experience represents the fundamentalism of socialism, and its failure depends
IMO on the simple fact it was a fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is always a
disaster. There's nothing wrong in being a little Nationalist. Nazism is a
tragedy. There's nothing wrong in being Socialist. The Soviet Communism is a
Even if Roger agrees that Capitalism is not a perfect system, he seems to be
sure that EVERY decent form of Capitalism is much better than ANY form of
Socialism. I'm not so convinced, and I try to explain why.
Example of Working Socialism
It is easy to me. I live in one of the richer parts of Italy. Emilia-Romagna is
the name of my region, that is around Bologna. It covers a wide area (about 400
km long and 100 large), and there are about 3 millions of inhabitants. Our
cities are usually at the first places in Italy of every chart about Quality of
life, Services to the citizens, Safety, Richness.
After the WW2, the whole region has always been ruled by the Reds, and actually
it is also known as the "Red Region". It is far from my intentions to say that
it is thanks to Socialism that Emilia-Romagna is wealthy, I want just to show
that the equation "Socialism = Poverty" does not stand.
I can give you few examples of social *arete* from this region. In Reggio
Emilia, you can find one of the best scholastic systems for infancy (public,
btw) of the world. They are quite famous, recognized by a lot of international
institutions. You will find also on the net something, if you hit a search about
"Reggio For Children".
There's a nice episode about it: one day a delegation from an American institute
(I can't remember what) came to visit those schools. They asked the
headmistress for some "objective" result of her school, like how many engineers,
doctors or advocates were produced. There, no one had never thought to adopt
this kind of parameters to measure the performances of infancy schools. The
chill answer of the headmistress was: "we are here to produce good citizens, but
we don't know how to measure this parameter, exactly".
And another, even more famous, example is about production of excellent goods.
Ferrari: ever heard this name? I can assure you that about the 70% of the
Ferrari workers in the 60's and 70's (when the myth of Ferrari was growing up to
a international level) used to vote the Italian Communist and Socialist parties.
This was not causing, evidently, a disastrous production. The whole area around
Modena is full of successful enterprises, and even many of the owners were
convinced communists or socialists.
I could go on. Anyway, what is the basic reason for this success, despite of
the Red Menace? Simply, we have in Italy a constitutional principle which
assures the right to private property and free enterprise and representative
democracy (by the way, our constitution has been written and approved after the
WW2 with the help of all the parties, Reds included). In such situation, the
effort of a Socialist Party is NOT to destroy the dynamism of Free Market,
rather it is to demonstrate that a public enterprise can produce services of
excellent rate. The presence of a Public/Private competition IMO makes it
possible that virtuous balance of interests that Roger claims.
[By the way, Platt, even here in this Red Region it is possible TO PAY and get
operated within days. Thanks to the private/public balance, it is also possible
to get operated within weeks, cost free. I don't know if the image of the USA
we have is distorted, but here it is common thought that there, if you have no
money, you can even die on the street with no help. ]
I'm glad to hear from the Andrew Connor's essay that in the end even the
American Communists are going to abandon any fundamentalist dream, and are
trying to support civic battles for the human rights. I do hope it will help
America to rethink the condemnation of every form of Socialism as immoral.
Example of Capitalistic Failure
On this forum, sometimes I read about Cuba. Gringos :-) use to bring that
country as a clear example of the failure of Socialism. Have they ever been
there? No, of course. Free American citizens can't go there, as America does not
If I remember well, Cuba was conquered by the USA after a war against Spain.
The peace statement assigned Cuba and Philippines to the American control. Then,
the land of freedom supported a series of fascist dictatorships, in order to
have the colonialist control of those lands. American companies used to exploit
the lands, and the population had no advantage.
The Cuban Revolution has been the reaction to that situation. It is thanks to a
*too free* capitalism, that you have communists 100 miles from Florida. By the
way, it is too easy to confront CUBA and the USA. Why don't you confront it with
the Philippines, or with all the other countries of Latin America. Would you
prefer to be a Mexican or a Cuban? I've been to Africa, and I've been to Cuba.
Well, I can assure you that Cubans are really much more lucky than Tanzanians
and Kenyans. According to the same parameter Platt uses, it is well known that
the level of the Cuban health system is much better than the other Latin
I agree with Roger that Capitalism inherited poverty. But it is also clear that
there's no evidence that Capitalism is able to correct poverty per se.
Capitalism need correctives to be effective. Anti trust laws, firstly. And the
separation of the three powers (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary); and the
independence of those powers from the market.
Without those correctives, capitalism becomes a fundamentalism, where money is
the only parameter. When the companies can buy Laws, Justice and Governments,
you have another disaster. Many countries of Latin America (Brazil and Mexico,
for example) are there to show you that a Free Market without rules is a
disaster (or, as Horse points out, it is not free). In a poor African or Asian
country it is a mistake to initiate quickly a Capitalistic system. People have
to learn how to control such a beast. The Free Market culture is not easy to be
adopted by an entire population. Primarily, they need protection from the
invasion of stranger companies. And they need to develop an intellectual
culture, so that they can face the power of the social forces of the market. If
not, it is sufficient to go to Nigeria and see what the oil companies have done.
In the end, I want to add that I'm a little stunned when I read Platt who writes
that a program for intellectual control over society is immoral. What is an
anti-trust law? Isn't it one of the best teachings America has given to the
world? Isn't it a moral intellectual statement the decision, for example, that
AT&T has not to own the whole telecommunication system? This and other
intellectual statements are there to lead the social dynamism within its
boundaries. Capitalism is a perfect machine to produce richness. There's nothing
wrong in an intellectual control of society, if only this control lets the
Capitalism do what it has to do. A good intellectual control has to ensure the
production of a diffused richness, and the independence of intellect from the
market influence. Nothing less, nothing more.
IMO a wealthy nation needs a modern, non-fundamentalist, sane Social-democracy
as counterpart to a modern, non-fundamentalist, sane Capitalism. Without one of
them, the other can't be sane.
tks for reading
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